x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Principal dismissed over Prophet comments

Principal of Gems school allegedly asked a derogatory question about Prophet Mohammed during an interview.

DUBAI // A new principal started work at Our Own English High School in Dubai yesterday after the former head teacher was dismissed for allegedly making an inappropriate comment about the Prophet Mohammed.

Ainsley Edgar, who had been at the school for three years, was said to have made the offensive remark as he interviewed a candidate for an Islamic Studies teaching position last Thursday.

The new head teacher is Aziz Akhtar, the former principal of Our Own Indian School in Dubai. Both schools are managed by Gems.

"A complaint was made recently against Mr Edgar following a panel interview for a teaching position. An allegation was made that the principal asked an inappropriate question that related to the candidate's religious belief," Ralph Tabberer, the chief of schools of Gems Education, told parents in an e-mail.

The matter, said to be a misunderstanding, had been cleared up but Gems management and Mr Edgar agreed he should be replaced because of "the sensitivities of these matters in the region".

Gems denied reports that Muslim teachers at the school had refused to take classes after the incident.

"Respect for all religions and cultures are values that are embedded in all Gems schools," said a statement from the school. "Gems has therefore relieved the principal of his responsibilities."

The Knowledge and Human Development Authority said the matter was being investigated.

Parents said the change in principals was unlikely to affect the pupils and hoped it would not impede the school's plan to move to a new site in September.

"The school had been making progress under Mr Edgar and he was quite a good principal," one parent said. "Now we hope that everything goes smoothly with the move."

The new principal, Mr Akhtar, received a national teacher's award three years ago from the Ministry of Human Resource Development in India.

rtalwar@thenational.ae